Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

from In Memorium

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light;
    The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more,
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Sensible Life

Liz Waldner (2008)

In the beginning
there was a meanness and it spread.

Perhaps I absorbed it, so that whatever I saw
was filtered through the meanness.

I don’t mean “stingy,” stinginess,
as do British novelists, by the way.

Although a lacking generosity—
the ability to will that there be

someone Other than Oneself was certainly
a kind of cause.

In the beginning, then,
it was willed that I not be.

This shamed me, however good
an act I learned to put on.

And now it is fifty years later.
I have a profound interest in freedom, I notice,

and an urgent sense of little time.
Little time. Near Little Gidding.

I ween ken reckon have on
the British women novelists I have loved.

I have to mean their novels, of course.
“Queen of the Tambourine.” “The Vacillations of Poppy Carew.”

“Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.”
Behold, how the outcast makes good.

“Time” is a word. “Love” is a word.
Between them are words and between them

an entrance. I pray to be
entranced, starting right now again I do.

I am old enough to understand
being willing

to go on is a great gift.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Icy Mountains Constantly Walking

Gary Snyder (1995)

for Seamus Heaney

Work took me to Ireland
a twelve-hour flight.
The river Liffy;
ale in a bar,
So many stories
of passions and wars—
A hilltop stone tomb
with the wind across the door.
Peat swamps go by:
people of the ice age.
Endless fields and farms—
the last two thousand years.

I read my poems in Galway,
just the chirp of a bug.
Amd flew home thinking
of literature and time.

The rows of books
in the Long Hall at Trinity
The ranks of stony ranges
above the ice of Greenland.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The School Of Metaphysics

Charles Simic

Executioner happy to explain
How his wristwatch works
As he shadows me on the street.
I call him that because he is grim and officious
And wears black.

The clock on the church tower
Had stopped at five to eleven.
The morning newspapers had no date.
The gray building on the corner
Could've been a state pen,

And then he showed up with his watch,
Whose Gothic numerals
And the absence of hands
He wanted me to understand
Right then and there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Anecdote of the Jar

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gray Room

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Although you sit in a room that is gray,
Except for the silver
Of the straw-paper,
And pick
At your pale white gown;
Or lift one of the green beads
Of your necklace,
To let it fall;
Or gaze at your green fan
Printed with the red branches of a red willow;
Or, with one finger,
Move the leaf in the bowl--
The leaf that has fallen from the branches of the forsythia
Beside you...
What is all this?
I know how furiously your heart is beating.

check this heart: click here

Monday, December 22, 2008

Could I But Ride Indefinite

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Could I but ride indefinite,
As doth the meadow-bee,
And visit only where I liked,
And no man visit me,

And flirt all day with buttercups,
And marry whom I may,
And dwell a little everywhere,
Or better, run away

With no police to follow,
Or chase me if I do,
Till I should jump peninsulas
To get away from you,—

I said, but just to be a bee
Upon a raft of air,
And row in nowhere all day long,
And anchor off the bar,—
What liberty! So captives deem
Who tight in dungeons are.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Conjuration to Electra

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

By those soft tods of wool
With which the air is full;
By all those tinctures there,
That paint the hemisphere;
By dews and drizzling rain
That swell the golden grain;
By all those sweets that be
I' the flowery nunnery;
By silent nights, and the
Three forms of Hecate;
By all aspects that bless
The sober sorceress,
While juice she strains, and pith
To make her philters with;
By time that hastens on
Things to perfection;
And by yourself, the best
Conjurement of the rest:
O my Electra! be
In love with none but me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

from Auguries of Innocence

William Blake (1757-1827)

Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet Delight.
Some are Born to sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.

read in a cool library book: What It Is by: Lynda Barry

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Dan Chiasson (2008)

I lack the rigor of a lightning bolt,
the weight of an anchor. I am
frayed where it would be highly useful—
and this I feel perpetually—to make a point.

I think if I can concentrate I might turn sharp.
Only, I don’t know how to concentrate—
I know only the look of someone concentrating,
indistinguishable from nearsightedness.

It is hard for you to be near me,
my silly intensity shuffling
all the insignia of interiority.
Knowing me never made anyone a needle.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
Over oblivion.

The years-heired feature that can
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durance — that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Juke Box Love Song

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
Taxis, subways,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem's heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day—
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Crystal Gazer

Sara Teasdale (1844-1933)

I shall gather myself into my self again,
I shall take my scattered selves and make them one.
I shall fuse them into a polished crystal ball
Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.
I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent.
Watching the future come and the present go -
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
In tiny self-importance to and fro.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

After Love

Jack Gilbert (2008)

He is watching the music with his eyes closed.
Hearing the piano like a man moving
through the woods thinking by feeling.
The orchestra up in the trees, the heart below,
step by step. The music hurrying sometimes,
but always returning to quiet, like the man
remembering and hoping. It is a thing in us,
mostly unnoticed. There is somehow a pleasure
in the loss. In the yearning. The pain
going this way and that. Never again.
Never bodied again. Again the never.
Slowly. No undergrowth. Almost leaving.
A humming beauty in the silence.
The having been. Having had. And the man
knowing all of him will come to the end.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Summer At Blue Creek, North Carolina

Jack Gilbert (2008)

There was no water at my grandfather’s
when I was a kid and would go for it
with two zinc buckets. Down the path,
past the cow by the foundation where
the fine people’s house was before
they arranged to have it burned down.
To the neighbor’s cool well. Would
come back with pails too heavy,
so my mouth pulled out of shape.
I see myself, but from the outside.
I keep trying to feel who I was,
and cannot. Hear clearly the sound
the bucket made hitting the sides
of the stone well going down,
but never the sound of me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Poetry Is A Destructive Force

Wallace Stevens

That's what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart.
It is to have or nothing.

It is a thing to have,
A lion, an ox in his breast,
To feel it breathing there.

Corazon, stout dog,
Young ox, bow-legged bear,
He tastes its blood, not spit.

He is like a man
In the body of a violent beast.
Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun.
Its nose is on its paws.
It can kill a man.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Terza Rima

Richard Wilbur (2008)

In this great form, as Dante proved in Hell,
There is no dreadful thing that can’t be said
In passing. Here, for instance, one could tell

How our jeep skidded sideways toward the dead
Enemy soldier with the staring eyes,
Bumping a little as it struck his head,

And then flew on, as if toward Paradise.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Looking, Walking, Being

Denise Levertov

"The world is not something to look at, it is something to be in."
—Mark Rudman

I look and look.
Looking's a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.

And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
a way of breathing.

breathing to sustain
walking and looking,
through the world,
in it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Friday, November 21, 2008

Window Washer

Charles Simic

And again the screech of the scaffold
High up there where all our thoughts converge:
Lightheaded, hung
By a leather strap,

Twenty stories up
In the chill of late November
Wiping the grime
Off the pane, the many windows

Which have no way of opening,
Tinted windows mirroring the clouds
That are like equestrian statues,
Phantom liberators with sabers raised

Before these dark offices,
And their anonymous multitudes
Bent over this day's
Wondrously useless labor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Day

Lawrence Raab

Watching the beautiful
sticks of trees as they click and sway,
the first green unraveling,

it's easy to imagine I might
remember this day forever.
I say it to myself,

never to others, while the poem
made hoping to preserve it
is changed, then changed again

to fit another order
it happens to discover.
At the end I find myself

in a room by a window, or at the edge
of a field, with the same clear
sky above me wherein later

I will imagine clouds, as if
some movement were required. That,
or a different kind of stillness.

So there must also be
a family circled round
the bedside of someone

who is dying. I place
myself among them.
All of us are waiting

for the little we believe we need
to hold on to and repeat.
But this is not my family

although it is you
who are dying, your words
I am again unable to imagine

as everything continues
sliding together in the light,
that day so easily

changed to this one,
the sky that is so blue, and the clouds
that cross my gaze with such terrible speed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Last Words

Linda Pastan

Let us consider
last words: Goethe's
"More Light," for instance,
or Gertrude Stein, sly
to the end, asking
"But what is the question?"

Consider the fisherman
caught on the hook
of his own death
who saves
his last words
for the sea.

Consider the miner,
the emblem of the earth
on his face,
who curses the earth
as he enters it,
mineshaft or grave.

I have heard the dry sound
leaves make
on their way from the tree,
have felt the cold braille
of snow as it melts
in the hand.

It is almost time
to let the curtain
of darkness down
on the perfect exit,
to say one last time
a few loved names,

or else to go out
in silence
like an anonymous star
whose message,
if there is one,
is light years away.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

To Music, To Becalm His Fever

Robert Herrick (1660)

Charm me asleep, and melt me so
With thy delicious numbers,
That, being ravish’d, hence I go
Away in easy slumbers.
Ease my sick head,
And make my bed,
Thou power that canst sever
From me this ill,
And quickly still,
Though thou not kill
My fever.

Thou sweetly canst convert the same
From a consuming fire
Into a gentle licking flame,
And make it thus expire.
Then make me weep
My pains asleep;
And give me such reposes
That I, poor I,
May think thereby
I live and die
‘Mongst roses.

Fall on me like the silent dew,
Or like those maiden showers
Which, by the peep of day, do strew
A baptism o’er the flowers.
Melt, melt my pains
With thy soft strains;
That, having ease me given,
With full delight
I leave this light,
And take my flight
For Heaven.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Voyages

Gregory Orr

It's late when I try to sleep, resting
one hand on your hip, the other on my chest
where the rise and fall of breath
is faint light that brightens and faces.
Today the doctor placed his stethoscope
against your belly and an amplifier
filled the tiny room with a scene
from old war movies—the submarine,
the churning of a destroyer's engines
fathoms above rapt, terrified sailors.
Child's heart, whose thrumming the doctor
pronounced as perfect as such things
can be guessed across such gulfs.

Here, deep in the night, I calm my fears
by choosing a place among Homer's crew,
lolling on Hades' shore. Inland, Odysseus
brims a trench with blood, extorts predictions
from the thirsty dead. But common sailors
already know that launching and wrecks
make the same sounds: scrape of keel on rock,
loud cries. As for the rest,
we need our ignorance to keep us brave.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Shelf Is A Ledge

Gregory Orr

I don't understand by what perversity
Darwin and St. Paul are kissing cousins
on my shelf. And how they both lean against
an encyclopedia of history . . .
It must give them bad dreams.
I watch Saul topple from his horse, but
Paul's all right. Darwin in the underbrush
glimpses a finch. And then there's that damned
history book ticking all night
like a cheap clock while it adds
the day's events to its late blank pages
and erases the early ones so it has
more space . . .
It's true a sane man
would resist the temptation to animate
dead things of the object world, and
such a shunning proves he's sane. Myself,
I hear a blessed humming in my head
and I'm its glad amanuensis.
Paul's taught me this: Love passes
understanding. And Darwin's on my side
as he screams in the dark: Survive! Survive!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Coffin Store

C.K. Williams (2008)

I was lugging my death from Kampala to Kraków.
Death, what a ridiculous load you can be,
like the world atremble on Atlas’s shoulders.

In Kampala I’d wondered why the people, so poor,
didn’t just kill me. Why don’t they kill me?
In Kraków I must have fancied I’d find poets to talk to.

I still believed then I’d domesticated my death,
that he’d no longer gnaw off my fingers and ears.
We even had parties together: “Happy,” said death,

and gave me my present, a coffin, my coffin,
made in Kampala, with a sliding door in its lid,
to look through, at the sky, at the birds, at Kampala.

That was his way, I soon understood, of reverting
to talon and snarl, for the door refused to come open:
no sky, no bird, no poets, no Kraków.

Catherine came to me then, came to me then,
“Open your eyes, mon amour,” but death
had undone me, my knuckles were raw as an ape’s,

my mind slid like a sad-ankled skate, and no matter
what Catherine was saying, was sighing, was singing,
“Mon amour, mon amour,” the door stayed shut, oh, shut.

I heard trees being felled, skinned, smoothed,
hammered together as coffins. I heard death
snorting and stamping, impatient to be hauled off, away.

But here again was Catherine, sighing, and singing,
and the tiny carved wooden door slid ajar, just enough—
the sky, one single bird, Catherine—just enough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Sydney Lea

Carpenter, Mechanic, and I:
it is our yearly hunting trip
to this game-rich, splendid, dirt-poor margin
of Maine. There is always rain and a gale,
and one or two
bluebird days just to break the heart.
We're good at this thing we do,
but for each bird that falls,
three get by us and go
wherever things go that get by us go.

To the realm of baby shoe and milk tooth;
kingdom of traduced early vow,
of the hedge's ghost, humming with rabbit and rodent,
under the mall's madadam. All that seemed
fixed in the eye. I,
according to Mechanic,
is too melancholic. Yes, says Carpenter,
and talks when he ought to be doing.
We all watch the canny Setter, with her nose
like a Geiger counter.

"There's not much gets by her,"
we repeat each year, admiring, after she's flashed on point
and shaaa!—in redundant wind another grouse flies wild.
Air and ridge and water now all take
the color of week-old blood. Or years-old ink.
We are such friends it's sad.
Not long before we stalk before winter the heavy-horned
bucks that slide past,
spirit-quiet, in spare brush.
Then Carpenter and Mechanic in their loud mackinaws will seem

interruptions on the skyline of the sky's
clean slate. And so will I.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ancestor of the Hunting Heart

John Haines (1983)

There is a distance in the heart
and I know it well—
a somberness of winter branches,
dry stubble scarred with frost,
late of the sunburnt field.

Neither field, nor furrow,
nor woodlot patched with fences,
but something wilder: a distance
never cropped or plowed,
only by fire and the blade of the wind.

The distance is closer than
the broomswept hearth—
that time of year when leaves
cling to the bootsole,
are tracked indoors,
lie yellow on the kitchen floor.

Snow is a part of the distance,
cold ponds, and ice
that rings the cattle-trough.

Trees that are black at morning
are in the evening gray.
The distance lies between them,
a seed-strewn whiteness
through which the hunter comes.

Before him in the ashen snow-litter
of the village street
an old man makes his way,
bowed with sack and stick.

A child is pulling a sled.

The rest are camped indoors,
their damped fires smoking
in the early dusk.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Long Boat

Stanley Kunitz

When his boat snapped loose
from its moorings, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the shop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

After the Rebuilding

Philip Booth

After the rebuilding was done, and
the woodstove finally installed, after
the ripping-out of walls, tearing back to
its beams the house he'd lived in, frozen, for over
fifty years, he started mornings up with the world's
most expensive kindling. Not scraps of red oak from
new flooring, ends of clear birch from kitchen trim, and
knots from #2 pine, but oddlot pieces of his old life:
window frames clawed from his daughter's lost room,
his grandfather's coat peg, shelving his mother
had rolled her crust on, and lathing first plastered
the year Thoreau moved to Walden. The woodstove itself
was new: the prime heat for four new rooms descended
from seven, the central logic for all the opening up,
for revisions hammered out daily, weeks of roughing-in,
and after months of unfigured costs, the final bevels
and the long returning. Oh, when he first got up to
rekindle the fire of November mornings, he found
that everything held heat: he sweat as he tossed
the chunks in; he found himself burning, burning.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


W.S. Merwin (2008)

Climbing in the mist I came to a terrace wall
and saw above it a small field of broad beans in flower
their white fragrance was flowing through the first light
of morning there a little way up the mountain
where I had made my way through the olive groves
and under the blossoming boughs of the almonds
above the old hut of the charcoal burner
where suddenly the scent of the bean flowers found me
and as I took the next step I heard
the creak of the harness and the mule’s shod hooves
striking stones in the furrow and then the low voice
of the man talking softly praising the mule
as he walked behind through the cloud in his white shirt
along the row and between his own words
he was singing under his breath a few phrases
at a time of the same song singing it
to his mule it seemed as I listened
watching their breaths and not understanding a word

Monday, October 20, 2008


Richard Tillinghast

Early pleasures please best, some old voice whispers:
Cozy holdings, the heart's iambic thud
And sly wanderings—lip-touchings, long summers,
The rain's pourings and pipings heard from bed,
Earth-smell of old houses, airy ceilings,
A boy's brainy and indolent imaginings.

Twenty summers gone then that boy is gone,
Speeding down beach roads in a friend's MG.
Love, or the limey buzz of a g & t—
Or better, both—and the watery hunter's moon,
Accelerate the engines of the night,
And set a long chase afoot.

Today twenty years older than that even,
I breathe quietness and fresh-laundered linen,
Kneeling, seeing with eyes opened white brick,
Smelling Sunday, mumbling beside my son those words
About a lost sheep, and someone's having erred.
Thank God for instinct, and beginner's luck.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Donald Justice

Summer, goodbye.
The days grow shorter.
Cranes walk the fairway now
In careless order.

They step so gradually
Toward the distant green
They might be brushstrokes
Animating a screen.

Mist canopies
The water hazard.
Nearby, the little flag lifts,
Brave but frazzled.

Under sad clouds
Tow white-capped golfers
Stand looking off, dreamy and strange,
Like young girls in Balthus.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Way

Albert Goldbarth (2008)

The sky is random. Even calling it “sky”
is an attempt to make a meaning, say,
a shape, from the humanly visible part
of shapelessness in endlessness. It’s what
we do, in some ways it’s entirely what
we do—and so the devastating rose

of a galaxy’s being born, the fatal lamé
of another’s being torn and dying, we frame
in the lenses of our super-duper telescopes the way
we would those other completely incomprehensible
fecund and dying subjects at a family picnic.
Making them “subjects.” “Rose.” “Lamé.” The way

our language scissors the enormity to scales
we can tolerate. The way we gild and rubricate
in memory, or edit out selectively.

An infant’s gentle snoring, even, apportions
the eternal. When they moved to the boonies,
Dorothy Wordsworth measured their walk

to Crewkerne—then the nearest town—
by pushing a device invented especially
for such a project, a “perambulator”: seven miles.
Her brother William pottered at his daffodils poem.
Ten thousand saw I at a glance: by which he meant
too many to count, but could only say it in counting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Sea-Change

Derek Walcott

With a change of government the permanent cobalt,
the promises we take with a pinch of salt,
with a change of government the permanent aquamarine,
with a reorganized cabinet the permanent violet,
the permanent lilac over the reef, the permanent flux
of ocher shallows, the torn bunting of the currents
and the receding banners of the breakers.
With a change in government no change in the cricket’s chirrup,
the low, comical bellow of the bull, or
the astonishing symmetry of tossing horses.
With a change in government the haze of wide rain
which you begin to hear as the ruler hears the crowd
gathering under the balcony, the leader who has promised
the permanent cobalt of a change of government
with the lilac and violet of his cabinet change.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Burnout in the Overshoot

A.R. Ammons

The first cool spell has
cracked the white aspers open,
samples here and there,

and tomorrow's promised warmth will
stir a few bees loose:
there's something besides

death and nothingness,
even if winter is coming:
and, anyway, death isn't

a place you get all the way
to: as you arrive
what is arriving

diminishes and
finally, touch to touch,
nothing is equal to nothing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Could Not Tell

Sharon Olds (2002)

I could not tell I had jumped off that bus,
that bus in motion, with my child in my arms,
because I did not know it. I believed my own story:
I had fallen, or the bus had started up
when I had one foot in the air.

I would not remember the tightening of my jaw,
the irk that I’d missed my stop, the step out
into the air, the clear child
gazing about her in the air as I plunged
to one knee on the street, scraped it, twisted it,
the bus skidding to a stop, the driver
jumping out, my daughter laughing
Do it again.

I have never done it
again, I have been very careful.
I have kept an eye on that nice young mother
who lightly leapt
off the moving vehicle
onto the stopped street, her life
in her hands, her life’s life in her hands.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Beast Brutality

Mary Jo Bang (2008)

The caption read,
"He and she standing quietly next to a dog."

The prompt queen sat with her crown on,
The insets between each Gothic arch providing a measure

Of what can be
Done with architecture.

She said, "We built it long ago.
And then we knocked it down."

And then she looked away.
"And then we looked away."

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Robert Creeley (1990)

I’ve thought of myself
as objective, viz,
a thing round which
lines could be drawn–

or else placed by years, the average
some sixty, say, a relative
number of months, days,
hours and minutes.

I remember thinking of war
and peace and life
for as long as I can remember.
I think we were right.

But it changes, it thinks
it can all go on forever
but it gets older.
What it wants is rest.

I’ve thought of place
as how long it takes
to get there and of where
it then is.

I’ve thought of clouds, of water
in long horizontal bodies, or
of love and women and the children
which came after.

Amazing what mind makes
out of its little pictures,
the squiggles and dots,
not to mention the words.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

from The Life of Towns

Anne Carson (1990)

A Town I Have Heard of

"In the middle of nowhere."
Would that be?
Nice and quiet.
A rabbit.
Hopping across.
On the stove.

Pushkin Town

When I live I live in the ancient future.
Deep rivers run to it angel pavements are in use.
It has rules.
And love.
And the first rule is.
The love of chance.
Some words of yours are very probably ore there.
Or will be by the time our eyes are ember.

Memory Town

In each one of you I paint.
I find.
A buried site of radioactive material.
You think 8 miles down is enough?
15 miles?
140 miles?

September Town

One fear is that.
The sound of the cicadas.
Out in the blackness zone is going to crush my head.
Flat as a piece of paper some night.
Then I'll be expected.
To go ahead with normal tasks anyway just because.
Your head is crushed flat.
As a piece of paper doesn't mean.
You can get out of going to work.
Mending the screen door hiding.
Your brother from the police.

Entgegenwartigung Town

I heard you coming after me.
Like a lion through the underbrush.
And I was afraid.
I heard you.
Crashing down over flagpoles.
And I covered my ears.
I felt the walls of the buildings.
Sway once all along the street.
And I crouched low on my wheels.
In the middle of the room.
Staring hard.
Then the stitches came open.
You went past.

Emily Town

"Riches in a little room."
Is a phrase that haunts.
Her since the voltage of you.
Snow or a library.
Or a band of angels.
With a message is.
Not what.
It meant to.

Town of the Dragon Vein

If you wake up too early listen for it.
A sort of inverted whistling the sound of sound.
Being withdrawn after all where?
Does all the sound in the world.
Come from day after day?
From mountains but.
They have to give it back.
At night just.
As your nightly dreams.
Are taps.
Open reversely.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Victim of Himself

Marvin Bell (1990)

He thought he saw a long way off the ocean
cresting and falling, bridging the continents,
carrying the whole sound of human laughter
and moans—especially moans, in the mud of misery—
but what he saw was already diluted, evaporating,
and what he felt were his teeth grinding
and the bubbles of saliva that broke on his tongue.

He was doomed to be a victim of himself.
He thought he saw, in the future, numberless, cavernous
burials—the outcome of plagues, of wars,
of natural disasters created by human beings—
and what he felt was the normal weakness displayed
by droopy eyes and muscles that bleated meekly.

He thought he saw from Earth up to the stars
and from any one moment back to the hour of his birth
when desire produced, in the slush of passionate tides,
a citizen of mud and ash, of lost light and dry beds,
but what he saw was already distorted, moving away,
and what he felt was a sense of loss that so often
he had been at peace in her arms when he did not intend to be.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Kay Ryan (2000)

The satisfactions
of agreement are
immediate as sugar—
a melting of the
granular, a syrup
that lingers, shared
not singular.
Many prefer it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

When You Are Old

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Never Mind

Dorothea Tanning (2008)

Never mind the pins
And needles I am on.
Let all the other instruments
Of torture have their way.
While air-conditioners
Froze my coffee
I caught the toaster
Eating my toast.
Did I press the right
Buttons on all these
Buttonless surfaces,
Daring me to press them?
Did you gasp on seeing what
The mailman just brought?

Will the fellow I saw pedalling
Across the bridge live long
After losing his left leg,
His penis, and his bike
To fearlessness?
Will his sad wife find
Consolation with the
Computer wizard called in
Last year to deal with glitches?

Did you defuse the boys’
Bomb before your house
Was under water, same
As everything else?
My sister grabbed her
Silver hand mirror
Before floating away.
The dog yelped constantly,
Tipping our canoe.
Silly dog.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Blue Bowl

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-handed
we scraped sand and gravel
back into the hole.
They fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feathers
between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.

We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows keener than these.

Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
burbles from a dripping bush
like the neighbor who means well
but always says the wrong thing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Suitor

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping.
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder;
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish.
Suddenly I understand that I am happy.
For months this feeling
has been coming closer, stopping
for short visits, like a timid suitor.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What Came To Me

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jenny Kiss'd Me

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

When I Was One and Twenty

A. E. Housman

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
'Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
'The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.'
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Going to Extremes

Richard Armour (1906-1989)

Shake and shake
The catsup bottle.
None'll come—
And then a lot'll.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mottled Tuesday

John Ashbery (2007)

Something was about to go laughably wrong,
whether directly at home or here,
on this random shoal pleading with its eyes
till it too breaks loose, caught in a hail of references.
I’ll add one more scoop
to the pile of retail.

Hey, you’re doing it, like I didn’t tell you
to, my sinking laundry boat, point of departure,
my white pomegranate, my swizzle stick.
We’re leaving again of our own volition
for bogus patterned plains streaked by canals,
maybe. Amorous ghosts will pursue us
for a time, but sometimes they get, you know, confused and
forget to stop when we do, as they continue to populate this
fertile land with their own bizarre self-imaginings.
Here’s hoping the referral goes tidily, O brother.
Chime authoritatively with the pop-ups and extras.
Keep your units pliable and folded,
the recourse a mere specter, like you have it coming to you,
awash with the new day and its abominable antithesis,
OK? Don’t be able to make that distinction.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Ogden Nash

Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Resurrection of the Dead

Yehuda Amichai (2004)
translated from Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier

We are buried with everything we did,
with our tears and our laughs.
We have made storerooms of history out of it all,
galleries of the past, and treasure houses,
buildings and walls and endless stairs of iron and marble
in the cellars of time.
We will not take anything with us.
Even plundering kings, they all left something here.
Lovers and conquerors, happy and sad,
they all left something here, a signe, a house,
like aman who seeks to returne to a beloved place
and purposely forgets a book, a basket, a pair of glasses,
so that he will have an excuse to come back to the beloved place.
In the same way we leave things here.
In the same way the dead leave us.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's It To Us?

Arthur Rimbaud (1872)

What’s it to us, my heart, the folds of blood
And the coals, and a thousand murders, and long wailings
Of rage, cries from every inferno upturning
Every order; and the north wind gusts over the wreckage

And all vengeance? Nothing!…—But still, just the same,
We want it! Industrialists, princes, courts:
Perish! Down with power, justice, history!
This is our reward! The blood! The blood! The golden flame!
All to war, to vengeance, to terror,
My spirit! We turn in this vise: oh, be gone
Republics of the world! We’ve had enough of
Emperors, regiments, empires and peoples!

Who would whip up the whirlwind of furious fire,
But we ourselves and those we imagine to be our brothers?
For us, romantic friends, it will give us pleasure,
We never shall work, o waves of fire!

Europe, Asia, America, disappear!
Our avenging march has occupied all,
City and country!—We shall be crushed!
Volcanoes shall erupt! And the ocean struck. . .

Oh, my friends!—My heart is confident they are our brothers:
The dark unknowns, if we were to go! Let’s go!
Woe to us! I sense the shudders, the old soil,
Upon me, yours more and more! The soil melts.

But it’s nothing; I am here; I am still here.

avatar hair color

Friday, May 30, 2008

It's All I Have To Bring Today

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

It's all I have to bring today —
This, and my heart beside —
This, and my heart, and all the fields —
And all the meadows wide —
Be sure you count — should I forget
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my heart, and all the bees
Which in the clover dwell.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stupid University Job

Sharon Mesmer (2008)

Your loveliest of sway-backs;
of mine I was once ashamed,
and my uni-brow and crooked teeth,
and red hair my mother never let me wash
all winter,
afraid I'd catch a draft.
She wouldn't let me bathe, either,
which made gym class a horror.
I thought I had it bad
until I met that handsome Scottish man
whose parents tried to make him spontaneously combust
by feeding him haggis laced with gunpowder
and making him sleep in the stove.
Instead of an ear, he had a shiny, snail-shaped ridge.
I guess we all have our tragic flaw.
Mine is like that of the naked man
who holds up a sign that says "I'm naked"
and runs screaming through the park.
My handlers say I'm difficult,
but don't you believe it.
My soul still radiates a luminous intensity
despite this stupid university job.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

There Will Come Soft Rain

Sara Teasdale (1844-1933)

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire.

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly.

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Karen Chase (2008)

Our love is not the short
courtly kind but
upstream, down,
long inside — enjambed,
enjoined, conjoined, and
jammed, it's you, enkindler,
enlarger, jampacked man of many
stanzas, my enheartener – love
runs on from line to
you, from line to me and me
to you, from river to sea and sea to
land, hits a careless coast, meanders
way across the globe — land
ahoy! water ahoy! — love
with no end, my waters go
wherever you are, my stream
of consciousness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

An Immortality

Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

Sing we for love and idleness,
Naught else is worth the having.

Though I have been in many a land,
There is naught else in living.

And I would rather have my sweet,
Though rose-leaves die of grieving,

Than do high deeds in Hungary
To pass all men's believing.

avatar hair color

Sunday, May 25, 2008

For Anne Gregory

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

"Never shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-colored
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair."

"But I can get a hair-dye
And set much color there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair."

"I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair."

avatar hair color

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Listeners

Walter De La Mare (1873-1956)

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ'd the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Lean'd over and look'd into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplex'd and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirr'd and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starr'd and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
"Tell them I came, and no one answer'd,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

baby listener

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Job

Kay Ryan (2000)

Imagine that
the job were
so delicate
that you could
it. Impossible
work, really.
Like placing
pebbles exactly
where they were
already. The
steadiness it
takes ... and
to what end?
It's so easy
to forget again.

word pebbles

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Don Paterson (2008)

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one long thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a rain-dark gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign,
and I’d read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When to the Sessions (Sonnet 30)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Love in Her Attire


My love in her attire doth show her wit,
It doth so well become her:
For every season she hath dressings fit,
For winter, spring, and summer.
No beauty she doth miss,
When all her robes are on:
But Beauty's self she is,
When all her robes are gone.


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Only Work

Glyn Maxwell (2002)

In memory of Agha Shahid Ali

When a poet leaves to see to all that matters,
nothing has changed. In treasured places still
he clears his head and writes.

None of his joie-de-vivre or books or friends
or ecstasies go with him to the piece
he waits for and begins,

nor is he here in this. The only work
that bonds us separates us for all time.
We feel it in a handshake,

a hug that isn't ours to end. When a verse
has done its work, it tells us there'll be one day
nothing but the verse,

and it tells us this the way a mother might
inform her son so gently of a matter
he goes his way delighted.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

Mary Oliver (1997)

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything—
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker—
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing—
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet—
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

edgar allen poe

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov'd, I loved alone.
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by—
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

edgar allen poe

Friday, May 16, 2008

Isolation: To Marguerite

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

We were apart; yet, day by day,
I bade my heart more constant be.
I bade it keep the world away,
And grow a home for only thee;
Nor fear'd but thy love likewise grew,
Like mine, each day, more tried, more true.

The fault was grave! I might have known,
What far too soon, alas! I learn'd—
The heart can bind itself alone,
And faith may oft be unreturn'd.
Self-sway'd our feelings ebb and swell—
Thou lov'st no more;—Farewell! Farewell!

Farewell!—and thou, thou lonely heart,
Which never yet without remorse
Even for a moment didst depart
From thy remote and spherèd course
To haunt the place where passions reign—
Back to thy solitude again!

Back! with the conscious thrill of shame
Which Luna felt, that summer-night,
Flash through her pure immortal frame,
When she forsook the starry height
To hang over Endymion's sleep
Upon the pine-grown Latmian steep.

Yet she, chaste queen, had never proved
How vain a thing is mortal love,
Wandering in Heaven, far removed.
But thou hast long had place to prove
This truth—to prove, and make thine own:
"Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone."

Or, if not quite alone, yet they
Which touch thee are unmating things—
Ocean and clouds and night and day;
Lorn autumns and triumphant springs;
And life, and others' joy and pain,
And love, if love, of happier men.

Of happier men—for they, at least,
Have dream'd two human hearts might blend
In one, and were through faith released
From isolation without end
Prolong'd; nor knew, although not less
Alone than thou, their loneliness.

candy hearts

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Storm Window

Conrad Hilberry (b. 1928)

At the top of the ladder, a gust catches the glass
And he is falling. He and the whole window topple
backwards like a piece of deception slowly
coming undone. After an instant of terror,
he feels easy, as though he were a boy
falling back on his own bed. For years,
he has clamped his hands on railings, balanced
against the pitch of balconies and cliffs
and fire towers. For years, he has feared falling.
At last, he falls. Still holding the frame,
he sees the sky and trees come clear
in the wavering glass. In another second
the pane will shatter over this whole length,
but now, he lies back on air, falling.

soap suds

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Wished-For Song

(originally in Persian. tr. from translations by Coleman Barks)

You're a song
a wished-for song.

Go through the ear and to the center
where sky is, where wind,
where silent knowing.

Put seeds and cover them.
Blades will sprout
where you do your work.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Primer

Bob Hicok (2008)

I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”
can sincerely use the word “sincere.”
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.
It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn’t ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. “What did we do?”
is the state motto. There’s a day in May
when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere.
Let us tell each other everything we can.


Monday, May 12, 2008


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn
Indicative that suns go down;
The notice to the startled grass
That darkness is about to pass.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

To My Mother

Robert Louis Stevenson

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.

Anna Marie Jarvis -
founder of Mother's Day

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chair (A Dream)

Adonis (2008)
(translated from Arabic by Michael Beard and Adnan Haydar)

Long ago I screamed at the city:
Husk of the world,
I'm holding you in my hand.
Long ago I muttered at the ship,
my song in a rose-red blaze:
all or nothing.

As for you, my grandchildren, I'm tired,
tired of myself, tired of the seas.
Bring me that chair.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An Old-Fashioned Song

John Hollander (1990)

("Nous n'irons plus au bois")

No more walks in the wood:
The trees have all been cut
Down, and where once they stood
Not even a wagon rut
Appears along the path
Low brush is taking over.

No more walks in the wood;
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.
Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.

We and the trees and the way
Back from the fields of play
Lasted as long as we could.
No more walks in the wood.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

One Can Miss Mountains

Todd Boss (2008)

and pine. One

can dismiss
a whisper's

and go on as

before as if
everything were

perfectly fine.
One does. One

loses wonder
among stores

of things.
One can even miss

the basso boom
of the ocean's

rumpus room
and its rhythm.

A man can leave
this earth

and take nothing
—not even

with him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Hour Glass

Ben Johnson (1573-1637)

Consider the small dust, here in the glass,
By atoms moved:
Could you believe that this the body was
Of one that loved;
And in his mistress' flame playing like a fly,
Was turned to cinders by her eye:
Yes; and in death, as life unblessed,
To have it expressed,
Even ashes of lovers find no rest.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chalk-Circle Compass

Sandra McPherson (1998)

First comes conscience—
care about the circle,
guilt about the oblong
or the wobble.

Then comes the innocent
to the board to parse the arc,
sketch the wedge,
to breathe onto the slate

as if wholesomeness could set
it free, as one would pat
a bubble from a baby after milk.
A rustic udder,

an orb with fingers,
is a poor example
of geometry. Only
if one were teaching awe

would one approve the hand-drawn
this arm's-length wooden compass
cannot give to the world.

Only if circumference went feral
or was, originally, a wild thing,
would you try your rough unaided hand
at a ring worth teaching.

But you could draw them both, teach
love for unmatching eyes
on the blackboard—one bearing
personality's squint,

the other seeing so well through history
it never fills with history's litter,
the sterling circle,
the one whose tearless shape

hurts the child enough
to—long after the examination—
stay somewhat ideal
in her, in him, like

just what it is, a ripple.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Ann Lauterbach

The days are beautiful
The days are beautiful.

I know what days are.
The other is weather.

I know what weather is.
The days are beautiful.

Things are incidental.
Someone is weeping.

I weep for the incidental.
The days are beautiful.

Where is tomorrow?
Everyone will weep.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
The days are beautiful.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
Today is weather.

The sound of the weather
Is everyone weeping.

Everyone is incidental.
Everyone weeps.

The tears of today
Will put out tomorrow.

The rain is ashes.
The days are beautiful.

The rain falls down.
The sound is falling.

The sky is a cloud.
The days are beautiful.

The sky is dust.
The weather is yesterday.

The weather is yesterday.
The sound is weeping.

What is this dust?
The weather is nothing.

The days are beautiful.
The towers are yesterday.

The towers are incidental.
What are these ashes?

Here is the hate
That does not travel.

Here is the robe
That smells of the night

Here are the words
Retired to their books

Here are the stones
Loosed from their settings

Here is the bridge
Over the water

Here is the place
Where the sun came up

Here is a season
Dry in the fireplace.

Here are the ashes.
The days are beautiful.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Louis MacNeice (1941)

Ordinary people are peculiar too:
Watch the vagrant in their eyes
Who sneaks away while they are talking with you
Into some black wood behind the skull,
Following un-, or other, realities,
Fishing for shadows in a pool.

But sometimes the vagrant comes the other way
Out of their eyes and into yours
Having mistaken you perhaps for yesterday
Or for tomorrow night, a wood in which
He may pick up among the pine-needles and burrs
The lost purse, the dropped stitch.

Vagrancy however is forbidden; ordinary men
Soon come back to normal, look you straight
In the eyes as if to say 'It will not happen again',
Put up a barrage of common sense to baulk
Intimacy but by mistake interpolate
Swear-words like roses in their talk.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Tropics in New York

Claude McKay (1890-1948)

Bananas ripe and green, and gingerroot,
Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grapefruit,
Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Set in the window, bringing memories
Of fruit trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies
In benediction over nunlike hills.

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Liu Ch'e

Ezra Pound (1914)

The rustling of the silk is discontinued,
Dust drifts over the court-yard
There is no sound of foot-fall, and the leaves
Scurry into heaps and lie still,
And she the rejoicer of the heart is beneath them:

A wet leaf that clings to the threshold.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Infant Innocence

A. E. Housman

The Grizzly Bear is huge and wild;
He has devoured the infant child.
The infant child is not aware
It has been eaten by the bear.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Matthew Dickman (2008)

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Flower in the Crannied Wall

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Don't Look Back

Kay Ryan

This is not
a problem
for the neckless.
Fish cannot
swivel their heads
to check
on their fry;
no one expects
this. They are
torpedos of
compact capsules
that rely
on the odds
for survival,
unfollowed by
the exact and modest
number of goslings
the S-necked
goose is—

who if she
looks back
acknowledges losses
and if she does not
also loses.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Fist

Derek Walcott

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Strange Disorder

Diane Ackerman (2006)

A strange disorder rules the house
where lately slender method scared
papers into files neat as hedgerows
and caution laid its dropcloth everywhere.
Now books lie slaughtered on the rug,
the telephone rings, old letters dune
among bills and maps and coffee spoons
in a room spontaneous as a compost heap
where you work the oracle of my thoughts
and haunt the prison of my sleep.

see also: A Sweet Disorder

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Saw A Man Pursuing the Horizon

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.

I was disturbed by this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never—"

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Reader

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

All night I sat reading a book,
Sat reading as if in a book
Of sombre pages.

It was autumn and falling stars
Covered the shrivelled forms
Crouched in the moonlight.

No lamp was burning as I read,
A voice was mumbling, "Everything
Falls back to coldness,

Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermillion pears
Of the leafless garden."

The sombre pages bore no print
Except the trace of burning stars
In the frosty heaven.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here Name Your

Dora Malech (2008)

My friend spends all summer
mending fence for the elk to blunder

back down and the cows to drag
the wires and the snow to sit and sag

on, so all the twist and hammer and tauten
and prop amounts at last to nought, knot, tangle.

The next year he picks
up his pliers and fixes

the odds all over again. There are no
grownups, and I think that all of us children know

and play some variation on this theme, the game of all join
hands so that someone can run them open.

Then war whoops, shrieks, and laughter
and regather together

as if any arms might ever really hold.
I’m trying to finger the source—pleasure of or need

for—these enactments of resistance, if Resistance
is indeed their name. I’m trying to walk the parallels to terminus—

call them lickety-split over rickety bridge,
tightrope, railroad tie, or plank as you see fit—

trying to admit to seeing double,

to finding myself beset by myself
on all sides, my heart forced by itself,

for itself, to learn not only mine
but all the lines—

crow’s flight, crow’s-feet, enemy, party, picket,
throwaway, high tide, and horizon—to wait

in the shadows of scrim each night
and whisper the scene. Always, some part

of the heart must root for the pliers, some
part for the snow’s steep slope.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


H.D. (1916)

You are clear
O rose, cut in rock,
hard as the descent of hail.

I could scrape the colour
from the petals
like spilt dye from a rock.

If I could break you
I could break a tree.

If I could stir
I could break a tree—
I could break you.

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air—
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat—
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Monday, April 21, 2008


H.D. (1924)

Whirl up, sea—
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

After Weeks of Watching the Roof Leak

Gary Snyder

After weeks of watching the roof leak
I fixed it tonight
by moving a single board.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

from Myths and Texts

Gary Snyder

Felix Baran
Hugo Gerlot
Gustav Johnson
John Looney
Abraham Rabinowitz
Shot down on the steamer Verona
For the shingle-weavers of Everett
the Everett Massacre November 5 1916

Ed McCullough, a logger for thirty-five years
Reduced by the advent of chainsaws
To chopping off knots at the landing:
"I don't have to take this kind of shit,
Another twenty years
and I'll tell 'em to shove it"
(he was sixty-five then)
In 1934 they lived in shanties
At Hooverville, Sullivan's Gulch.
When the Portland-bound train came through
The trainmen tossed off coal.

"Thousands of boys shot and beat up
For wanting a good bed, good pay,
decent food, in the woods — "
No one knew what it meant:
"Soldiers of Discontent."

Friday, April 18, 2008


May Swenson (1914-1989)

Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye

With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

Emily Moore (2008)

Here’s to the rock star with the crooked teeth,
the cellist, banker, mezzo bearing gifts,
the teacher with the flask inside her jeans—
those girls who made us sweat and lick our lips.

To the jeune fille who broke my heart in France,
the tramp who warmed your lap and licked your ear,
the one who bought me shots at 2 A.M.
that night I tied your pink tie at the bar.

Who smoked. Who locked you out. Who kissed my eyes
then pulled my hair and left me for a boy.
The girl who bit my upper, inner thigh.
My raspy laugh when I first heard your voice

toasting through broken kisses sloppy drunk:
To women! To abundance! To enough!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Promise

Marie Howe

In the dream I had when he came back not sick
but whole, and wearing his winter coat,

he looked at me as though he couldn't speak, as if
there were a law against it, a membrane he couldn't break

His silence was what he could not
not do, like our breathing in this world, like our living

as we do, in time.
And I told him: I'm reading all this Buddhist stuff,

and listen, we don't die when we die. Death is an event,
a threshold we pass through. We go on and on

and into light forever.
And he looked down, and then back up at me. It was the look
we'd pass

across the table when Dad was drunk again and dangerous,
the level look that wants to tell you something,

in a crowded room, something important, and can't.

2007: Poetry by Marianne Moore

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Kay Ryan

Like slime
inside a
stagnant tank

its green
from lime
to emerald

a dank
but less

than success
is in general.

2007: The World Is Everything That Is the Case by Daryl Hine